“Tiny droplets of sweat and tears make the finest fabrics of India. Open your inner eyes and see” – Anonymous
Does it look puzzling? You can get an answer when you travel through the hot and dry conditions of the Indian villages. Here, you can listen to how the dreams of weaving communities and families are turning into nightmares. A skilled weaver can produce dozens of fabrics in a week. Every work is a masterpiece of art and culture. What do they get in return?
The status of handloom weavers in India seems to be caught up between riches and rags. Some of the affluent communities are exporting Khaddar and cotton fabrics through established agents. Their ROI and profits are also on par with the power loom companies. However, they seem to be too few in numbers. Majority of weavers from the villages are still close to or below poverty lines.
The conditions, however, don’t seem to affect the mindset of most weavers who are above 40. For them, weaving is not just a profession. It is an art which has passed through several generations before them. Now, they want the next generation to continue. The ground reality is, however, something different.
Many of the village weavers in the age group of 20+ to 30+ are migrating to urban areas to work in construction and production, and service industries. Some of them are turning into agricultural labourers. You enter a weaver’s home in a village to see what’s going on. There is a handloom machine. But it is alone. The weaver is gone forever to construct buildings in big cities. There is a thick growth of cobweb, mould, and mildew on the handloom machines.
The rhythmic sounds of weaving have disappeared. You feel a thick mass of vacuum, heat, and dust in the room. No matter where you go in the neighbouring villages, you get to see the same conditions. Who is responsible?
“What makes a fine handloom artisan fail to feed his family even twice a day”- Anonymous
The village weavers complain of poor wages, no support, and no direct links to the consumer markets. Village cooperative societies are trying their best to keep the weaving families alive and fit for work. But, most of the times they are locked and there is nobody to manage transactions.
“We can’t take this any longer. But still, I love my weaving work more than anything else in the world. It is not just a profession, but a passion for me” One of the handloom weavers in Karnataka tells you. His family members nod their heads in unison. You wonder if they have been programmed.
“Determination is something which runs in the blood of every weaving community across India”- Anonymous
I have seen most of the frustrated weavers are 40+ or 50+ today. Some are even older. Weavers in the age group from 30+ are difficult to see. 20+ age-groups is almost impossible. It looks like they have become extinct species. But still, the senior weavers are determined to push ahead. The quality and efficiency of their works only seem to get better each day.
“Confusion comes naturally when one is trapped between two uncertainties, with no other options” – Anonymous
Overcrowded cities and semi-urban spaces often make the weavers return to their villages. There is too much competition out there. Those who can’t compete may want to take up weaving once again. But they are not sure of earning half of what they got in the cities. The confusion is whether to continue weaving or to shut the shop and get out.
Thanks to NGOs and private firms like UD&F, the handloom industry is on the revival path today. They have opened up several outlets in every city and metropolitan across India. You can also find hundreds of online shops and e-commerce portals promoting the traditional Khaddar fabrics. So, the hope of success is glowing brighter than before. However, there are many hurdles to cross yet. What are they?
Open your wardrobe and count the number of daily wear, weekend wear, party wear, and special occasion wearable. How many of them are made of Khaddar, and how many of them have you worn from the past year? Compare the quality, colour, texture, weave, design and the patterns of Khaddar with the other collections you have.
The youth of modern India prefer easy to wear and stylish fabrics. You have been a fan of jeans, silk, nylon, polyester, chiffon, Nilex, corduroy, wool, and so many other fabrics. How many times have you bought Khaddar fabrics and how many of them have you used regularly?
Fashion for 2019 and Beyond
Well, you can’t blame the youth for developing an attitude of apathy towards Khaddar. The designs and patterns of Khaddar had remained plain and conventional for centuries, but not any longer. There are many companies like UD&F who have revolutionized the entire concept of Khaddar fabrics. Hundreds of young and dedicated designers have taken up the work of adding embroidery, art, and designs to the Khaddar handlooms today. You will be surprised to see the handloom fabrics from Manipur to Maharashtra, and Kashmir to Kanyakumari in the innovative online shops like UD&F.
Click and Change Lives
You can be a part of the growing social, cultural, and personal revolution among the Youth of India. When I say youth, it includes everyone from 10 to 100 age groups. Go to the online portals like UD&F and click on the handloom fabric of your choice. What happens then?
The major part of the price you pay flies across the states to reach the bank account of a handloom weaver who put his sweat, tear, and effort to weave the fabric. Now you wear the same fabric with pride. Of course, it includes the designers like UD&F who transformed the finest fabric into the most fashionable dress you love to wear. Now, you will understand how the anonymous handloom weaver can make a living with the fabrics you purchase online.